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RLV News Special Edition:
Space Access'06 Conference
April 20-22, 2006, Phoenix, Arizona

Henry Vanderbilt opens the sessions at the Space Access.

This section contains reviews of the presentations at the meeting, links to blog entries from Space Transport News pictures and other resources for the Space Access Society's annual meeting - SA'06, April 20-22, Phoenix, Arizona.

RLV News Archive Directory


Daily Reviews

Previous Space Access Conference Reviews


April 22, 2006 - Presentation Notes

9:00 am: Steve Harrington (Flometrics)... Steve gave an overview of the various types of fluid dynamics work that the company does in areas ranging from aerospace to biomedical. They have been developing a pistonless pump for several years that has performance comparable to a turbopump but is far more reliable and safe. Showed a local TV news clip about their pistonless pump and the rocket work with students at Cal State San Diego.

  • He reviewed the problems and failures that have occurred in various turbopump projects over the years.
  • Reviewed the design of their pistonless pump.
  • Low cost yet performs as well as a turbopump.
  • "Failsafe operation."
  • Needs helium to drive it. Developing a liquid helium system to provide gaseous helium to pressurize the pump.
  • A dual pistonless pump prototype has got to 60gal/minute.
  • Looking for a vehicle to fly it on.
  • A turbopump subtracts from the rocket performance since it extracts power to drive it. A detailed comparison showed that a turbopump got 97.1% of ideal performance vs. 98.7% for the pistonless pump.
  • Working with several companies such as Garvey Spacecraft.

Pistonless pump
Steve Harrington explains the intricacies of pumping Margaritas
with the Flometrics pistonless pump during an after hours gathering

9:45 am: Panel discussion - Alt.Space Investing... Esther Dyson, Stephen Fleming, and Joe Pistritto.

  • What do investors look for: IP, how much control, when can an investor get out, etc.
  • Dyson:
    • How willing are the founders of startup willing to give up control?
    • Is the startup a toy or a child? A toy can be held indefinitely while a child must be nurtured but eventually set free.
    • Need to transfer from founder mode to manager mode.
  • Q&A:
    • Investors need to fully understand and believe in the customer base. The technology can't be the only focus.
    • Tech development can be funded by angel investors but not institutional ones.
    • An investment has a transaction cost - time to investigate and do background studies, etc. Small investments can require a big a transaction cost as a big one. Can be easier to get $20M than $20k. For small startup, find a friend or relative who knows you.
    • Panel thinks at least one alt.space company will be acquired in the next year.
    • Companies like Scaled Composites whose primary assets are the founder's skill and vision are very difficult to evaluate by outside investors.
    • Angel investors often want to diversify. Companies should not try to keep their investor hidden. In the long run it is better if they invest in other companies in same area.
    • Venture investors expect to get up to 10x their money. They usually don't get that but they need to be convinced that it is possible.
    • IPO and a sale are the two exit modes. Can get into a situation where one type of investors, e.g. holders of preferred shares, benefit more from a sale than an IPO, even when the latter is best for the company.
    • Audience member suggestion: A prize approach in which the purse leads to shares in the winning company for the prize giving organization.
    • Make investors want to invest in the area and then provide the justification.
    • Business plan is for selling the company not the widget.

10:45 am: Rick Tumlinson ... Rick heralded the Space Frontier Foundation's upcoming conference: NewSpace 2006, The Flamingo Las Vegas, July 19-23.

11:25 am: Len Cormier ... Len reported on his Space Van 2010 design:

  • $300M investment
  • $600k-$900k cost/flight
  • $1.3M price/flight
  • 1400kg payload to ISS orbit or 4-5 crew
  • TSTO, horizontal takeoff and landing carrier with winged orbital vehicle.
  • LOX/Kerosene
  • Aluminum berrylium alloys

12:05 pm: Mike Kelly... Mike discussed formation of the industry trade organization: Personal Spaceflight Foundation.

  • The organization will emphasize safety
  • Deal with regulatory framework. Try to prevent overly burdensome regs and chaotic/inconsistent regs.
  • Deal with the public perception of the industry
  • Respond after an accident
  • Present a unified front on critical issues such as FAA proposed rules, ITAR, etc.
  • Set industry standards
  • Coordinate lobbying efforts
  • Pool resources and expertise
  • Establish partnerships
  • Hold bi-yearly meetings of principals.
  • First official act was a set of consensus comments on the FAA's proposed human spaceflight regulations (NPRM). Unanimous agreement on the comments.
  • Researching liability waivers

Rand Simberg - New Industry Association

2:10 pm: John Gedmark ... Will spoke about the XP Cup in 2005 and then discussed the ~$3M in prize money for the 2006 event in October.

  • The Lunar Lander Challenge - encourage development of VTVL flight, short turn-around times, supplier base, FAA/AST procedures, etc.
    • Tier 1
      • 90 sec flight
      • Hover 50 meters about the ground
      • Flight A -> B -> A
      • Refuel and repeat flight to original pad.
    • Tier 2
      • 180 sec
      • land on simulated lunar terrain
  • Reusable Rocket Challenge
    • Sounding or VTLV
    • Rules under development - contact organizers to give input
    • Focus on high reusable and fast turnaround
    • Multiple flights in 8 hur period
    • Low altitude (~5000ft)
    • Land accuracy

Various suggestions for competitions came from the audience,

  • rocket tractor pull type of event
  • longest hover time
  • rocket parachute recovery accuracy
  • various technical test ideas
  • etc.

2:50 pm: Brant Sponberg (NASA Centennial Challenges)... Brant gave an overview of the program and then discussed suborbital services.

  • Exploration vision and other policy directives have emphasized commercial involvement
  • Tasks for commercial sector include suborbital microgravity access, ISS cargo/crew delivery, fuel depots, orbital habitats, etc.
  • NASA can involve commercial entities via service contracts (FAR), funded and non-reimbursable space act agreements (OTA), and prize competitions.
  • X PRIZE helped to initiate the CC program
  • Flagship Challenges ($1-50M) - encourage major private space missions
  • Keystone Challenges ($250k-$5M) - technology development
  • Alliance Challenges
  • Quest Challenges
  • Most challenges came from ideas suggested by people outside NASA, e.g. the space glove competition arose from a suggestion from Rand Simberg
  • Once a prize idea is developed, outside input is solicited
  • Team leads must be US citizens but team members can be foreign citizens.
  • The space elevator contests last summer got lots of media attention, e.g. CNN
  • $400k purse available for 2006 space elevator contests. This time competitors will have a full year to prepare.
  • Can now offer prizes about $250k de to authority passed by Congress last January
  • Rules for 8 competitions under review, eg.
    • Lunar night power source
    • Station-keeping solar sail
    • Sub-scale fuel depot demonstration
      • Provide 10x-100x kg of LH2 and LOX after maintaining depot on orbit for a few months
      • No specified method
      • No rendezvous and docking or propellant transfer required.
      • $5M prize
    • Human lunar all-terrain vehicle
    • Low-cost space pressure suit
      • aims to strengthen suppiler base for astronaut suits and subsystems
      • help private spaceflight market
      • $1M prize
      • re-pressurize to a specific pressure in under 1 min when exposed to rapid depressurization.
      • Sell or lease at least 10 suits
    • Lunar lander analog
    • Micro reentry vehicle
      • Provide a way to return microgravity samples
      • Return at least 6 eggs out of a dozen from orbit without cracking, cooking or scambling
      • $2M prize
      • Assumes vehicle is a smallsat secondary payload
    • Non-toxic reusable rocket
  • Competitions under study include
    • Human orbiter vehicle flight
      • 2 contractor studies done (X PRIZE Foundation, Paragon Space Development Corp.)
      • They suggested:
        • $100M-150M prize divided between 1st and 2nd place prizes)
        • 3-person
      • smaller prize for a Mercury style 1 person vehicle
    • Lunar robotic landing
  • Suborbital services
    • Recoverable microgravity flight service pathfinders
    • Non known yet what is the quality of the microgravity on the commercial suborbital vehicles
    • Non-reimbursable space act agreements to fly NASA's Space Acceleration Measurement Systems (SAMS) to find out the quaility
    • RFI with candidate science payloads to inform potential follow-on microgravity flight services

4:20 pm: George Herbert (Venturer Aerospace)... George described their COTS proposal:

  • S-550 capsule
  • 3.2 ton capsule - 3-6 seats
  • 1.8 ton service module
  • 4 tons cargo
  • Falcon 9 nominal launch vehicle
  • Requesting about 1/3 total COTS budget
  • $45M/flight for dedicated COTS mission to ISS on a Falcon 9
  • Propose mixing space tourism with NASA missions to maximize utilisation
  • Do only capsule, let others develop LVs.
  • Reusable capsules (5-6 flights per vehicle)

4:20 pm: Berin Szoka (Institute for Space Law and Policy)... Berin described the goals and mission of the organization and then focused on the ITAR export restrictions.

  • Public interest think tank
  • ITAR reform
  • Space property rights
  • Spaceflight regulation
  • ITAR
    • Most important issue for the industry
    • Arms Export Control Act passed in 1976.
    • Bush 1 moved control of comsats from State Dept. to Commerce Dept.
    • Long March failure analysis by Loral & Huges led to return of comsats to State in late 1990s.
    • ITAR Delenda Est (ITAR must be destroyed)
      • Anti-IAR rhetoric will undercut the reform
      • Nuclear weapons and other bad stuff are also on the Munitions List so ITAR obviously should restrict real dangerous stuff
    • ITAR is
      • bad for business
      • space as inherent good, retards space development in general
      • Retards US space development
      • Devastates industrial base
    • Applies not just to goods but technical data.
      • Can't present any technical info to foreigners without explicit permission
      • Stifles innovation - cut off US universities & researchers from int collaborations
      • Small businesses can't deal with expense
      • Forces other countries to develop indigenous capabilities
      • ITAR-free initiative in Europe - no US components in European satellites
      • Reverse brain drain
    • Set a 3-5 year timeline to reform ITAR
    • Need to focus on national security.
    • Quantitative data to show bad effects
    • Buy a copy of the ITAR from the Society for International Affairs for $10
    • Talk to an ITAR lawyer
    • Get on mailing list of the Institute for Space Law and Policy
  • Q&A
    • State Dept. asked one small company to take down its website to remove technical data
    • Project Starshine aimed at K-12 even got into big ITAR trouble.

5:45 pm: Panel discussion - All the Regs: From Local Zoning to Int. Tech Transfer... Randall Clague, Jim Muncy, Berin Szoka:

  • Jim Muncy
    • Activist efforts pushed for the concentration of commercial spaceflight regs in AST rather than spread over several agencies
    • Formal vs informal rules
    • Human rating - Shuttle doesn't fulfill NASA's human rating rules
    • ISS rendezvous rules
    • A federal commission (E.g. like the Challenger and Columbia commissions) is required to investigate the death of a space crew member even if the incident occurred on a craft under contract to the government. E.g. A death on a vehicle trying to win a Centennial prize for orbital spaceflight could involve such a commission.
    • Not in a barnstorming environment for spaceflight due to a host of such legal and regulatory complications.
  • Randall Clague
    • Went through a long, long list of local, state, and Federal agencies and departments that XCOR has dealt with.
    • Spent 6 years dealing with trademarking of the company's name.
  • Berin Szoka
    • Legal track at ISDC.
    • Companies need lawyers to deal with ITAR.
    • Property rights.
    • Isle of Man now involved in space law issues.
      • Can keep any item that a human can move, e.g. a space rock.
  • Q&A
    • Debris mitigation now required by FCC
    • Permission to transmit


8:40 pm: Jim Muncy (PoliSpace) ... Jim began with a description of the job of a space policy consultant:

  • Help entrepreneurs succeed
  • Where business / technology intersect with policy
  • Clients: Air Force, ISS resupply bidder, ISS space tourist, etc.
  • Space is in crisis of change
    • Wei Chi = Danger + Opportunity
    • Good but challenging
    • Old order won't go down without a fight
  • Killer asteroid:
    • Dennis Tito's fight
    • Columbia
    • Bush declares NASA will exit LEO
    • X PRIZE
  • New vs. Old space is a political fight
  • Beal + Musk => +$300M on EELV class systems
  • US Space Transport policy:
    • DOD subsidizes all fixed costs
    • Private entrants attack your range use
    • Waive anti-trust for ULA
    • Make you submit to Aerospace Corp
  • Two fronts:
    • NASA, ISS and Apollo 2 - trying capitalism in LEO
    • Operational Responsive Space (ORS)
  • NASA is retiring shuttle and cutting remaining flights to 17.
  • CEV
    • CEV could go to ISS but won't
    • High cost of developing a CEV version to carry unpressurize cargo led it to be cancelled
    • Cost of CEV is too expensive
    • Plus there is the gap in ISS servicing
  • Griffin originally didn't include crew capability in COTS but changed his mind.
  • COTS isn't perfect but is a breakthrough
    • Praise them and then ask for more, e.g. instead of $500M, ask for $1B
    • Multiple competitors means a better chance of success
  • Important fight is not CLV, HLV, etc but the fight between "any" commercial and all-government system.
    • The fight is for enough resources so more competitors can get into the business.
  • ORS
    • Military ability to responsively (i.e. when needed on short term) implement space assets
    • Not advanced technology, not EELVs, not expensive ELVs or ICBMs
    • The warfighters get it, the AF space bureaucracy don't get it
    • Entrpreneurial Progress - suborbital RLVs
    • Opportunity for cooperation
    • Fall of 2005 there were 25 companies and organizations joined together and proposed that DOD coordinate planned spending on ORS with growing private industry.
    • Leverage fed dollars with private investment
    • AFRL set up ACES (AFRL Center for Entrepreneurial Space access)
    • Liason between DOD and entrepreneurial space firms working on ORS related systems
    • ProSpace March Storm pushed for legislation to make ACES a reality
    • Push on to includ it in this year's defense authorization
  • Q&A:
    • X-37 and other military spaceplane projects have failed
    • Argument over prizes: should the military fund prizes, e.g. like the DARPA robot vehicle contest. Jim says prizes are great but not sufficient.
    • What happens if Republicans lose control of one house of Congress?
      • If new space were seen as a partisan issue it could be a problem but so far it has not become partisan.
      • E.g. Democrat Nick Lampson changed his mind about Tito's flight and decided it had been a great thing. Got people in Clearlake, even NASA employees, excited about space and the ISS.
    • If White House changes parties in 2008, the military space changes would be harder
      • COTS probably will do okay if companies showing good progress by 2009.
      • Bipartisan support for the Moon/Mars program in Congress.
      • NASA budget hasn't changed much from what it would have been otherwise, just reprogrammed.

- Rand Simberg: Jim Muncy Speaks

9:40 pm: Joe Carroll (Tether Applications) ... Joe discussed the benefits of private sponsorship of space related contests. He had a good experience with a student contest involving a demonstration of a tether payload catching mechanism. Companies can use prizes to find good students and potential employees.


April 21, 2006 - Presentation Notes

Jess Sponable
Jess Sponable of the AFRL/VA, Wright Patterson AFB

9:00 am: Jess Sponable... Jess, who has worked in RLV areas for many years (including DC-X), began with a preview of the Responsive Access to Space Technology Exchange (RASTE) 2006 meeting sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). It will take place July 18-19 in Dayton, Ohio.

He then began discussing DARPA's Falcon Program: Small Launch Vehicle (SLV). It is managed by the Air Force and he is the Program Chief Engineer for the program. The objective is to demonstrate "affordable and responsive space lift". Task 1 is the SLV, task 2 is hypersonic technologies.

Began with 9 Phase 1 contracts, 4 Phase 2A, and now 2 SLV. SpaceX (which is paying for most of its own expenses) plus Air Launch LLC. Air Launch would fly in 2008 if Phase 2B approved.

Air Launch QuickReach rocket development completed Phase 2A on time, on budget. This included engine tests, stage separation test, ground drop test, C-17 drop test. Self-pressurizing propellants (Propane), no secondary pressurization system, no venting inside aircraft, single engine each stage, thrust vector control (TVC). Drops will eventually be done at 500ft/sec at 30k ft. Fires after about 3 seconds.

Tests needed to prove practical implementation. There were initial doubts about drops from C-17 but the tests went very smoothly. Try to use as much off-the-shelf technologies as possible.

Rapid prototyping approach. Phase 2A was accomplished in 11 months at $11M. Phase 2B major milestone 1 already met with separation test. Shape charge cuts tank to unsheath second stage engine. Milestone 2 engine tests also done. Need to do full-scale stage two engine qualification. More drop test and other items remain.

9:50 am: Secretary Rick Homans (New Mexico Economic Development)... Mr. Homans discussed the New Mexico Spaceport. He promoted NM as a space industry friendly area. Plans to attract entrepreneurial space companies to NM go back several years. Involved with Scaled and Virgin before X PRIZE was won. Early on they decided to pursue the XP Cup very aggressively.

Environmental impact review and other regulatory processes are moving along well. Looking for architectural and construction firms that are aware of the significance of the first purpose built commercial spaceport. Want an impressive facility that inspires awe. Should attract visitors who come just to tour the spaceport and not just flight participants. Will work for both horizontal and vertical launch systems. Initally manned horizontal and small unmanned vertical.

The political and business communities in NM are strongly behind the push to attract and nurture this industry.

Armadillo Aerospace next gen design.

11:00 am John Carmack (Armadillo Aerospace)... John begins with review of their development history. Here are miscellaneous notes:

  • Philosophy is to build actual hardware, make multiple versions to experiment and learn about them.
  • Experimented with pumps but don't think they are needed for suborbital
  • Will use spherical tanks for the next generation of vehicles
  • Fixed date for an event like the XP Cup is a good motivator for getting things done.
  • Built an ablative engine for the XP Cup vehicle.
  • Did 20 flights before last year's Cup. Everything looked very solid going into the event.
  • High winds led to the toppling after landing on the first flight off the ground plate. This caused a fuel leak that prevent a second flight. They learned a lot in preparing the vehicle for the Cup.
  • Have applied for license for a larger vehicle. Not complete.
  • New vehicle is a scaled up version of previous one. Gimbeled engine. 100 gallon tank.
  • Test stand now uses same systems as on the vehicle. Fully tests what will fly.
  • Film cooled engine. Little or no erosion.
  • Video of horizontal firings. 30 ft plumes.
  • Trying to talk rocket racing people to try vertical drag racing as a side event.
  • Picture of intermediate test vehicle. Will go for the lunar lander challenge at next XP CUp with it.
  • Showed cool video of a hold-down test this week of a large vehicle. Tested gimbaling. No erosion in long burn.
  • Graphic of large vehicle for high altitudes. Returning to differential throttling. Engines on side and body. Totally sealed body design. Could do water launch. Aiming for Level 2 Centennial Challenge. Capable of manned flights to 100km.
  • Expects to lose them during tested. Fairly inexpensive to build. (~$30k)
  • Hopes to reach 100km by end of this year. Next year lots of flight tests.
  • NM is a long drive. Hope to use private land near home in Texas.
  • Orbital system feasible for $2M range.
  • TSTO, low performance first stage, high performance second stage.
  • Currently focused on bi-propellant but thinking of the possibilities of a monopropellant for a SSTO vehicle. Something they will investigate and perhaps build a test system.
  • Hope to get some commercial customers to fly payloads to 100km this year to pay for development.
  • Since their construction costs are so low, only a few flights needed to pay for a vehicle.

11:45 am Lauer (Rocketplane Kistler)... Chuck gave an update on the Rocketplane development:

  • Now pursuing both suborbital and orbital systems
  • Rocketplane XP design now at a "mature" stage.
  • Lots of wind tunnel testing. About 700 runs at Mach 4. Checks CFD
  • Using a RS-88 from NASA for testing. Will be derated to 36k lbs thrust.
  • Combined design and assembly teams under one roof in Guthrie.
  • Working with Sprit Wing Aviation, which is very experienced with LearJet vehicles.
  • First XP wing nearing completion.
  • Showed ground track of the flight.
  • First approved supersonic flight corridor outside of military installations.
  • Rocky Mountains and Gulf of Mexico will be visible.
  • Will usually fly in the morning. Will see terminator over Rockies.
  • Will try a night flight eventually.
  • Hope to develop the spaceport ground facilities for terrestrial tourism, e.g. a theme park.
  • Can take out two rear seats and fly payload modules for experiments.
  • Expect eventually to fly in foreign locations such as Hokkaido in Japan.
  • Kistler K-1:
    • 75% complete
    • Basis of COTS proposal.
    • Military applications
    • Integrating same team as when project suspended.
    • At system level, there is considerable overlap between the orbital and suborbital vehicle development.
    • With a COTS contract they could fly by 2008. First commercial flight in 2009.
    • Will try to develop K-1 even without COTS but it will be delayed.
    • Suitable for Bigelow habitats / America's Space Prize.
    • K-1 based lunar transport scheme shown from several years ago. Used a heavy lift version of the K-1 with a cluster of first stage boosters for putting fuel and cargo into orbit.

Rick Tumlinson and Bill Boland (Space Frontier Foundation)... Rick and Bill presented the Foundation's new Teachers in Space project. The goal is to fly hundreds of teachers to space every year. Will first try to raise money from private sources.

Armadillo, Rocketplane, and XCOR have each agreed to provide one free ride as their vehicles come on line.

2:00 pm Jeff Hamilton (MSFC and Michoud Assembly Facility) - Jeff reviewed MSFC and Michoud facilities and what's available for companies to test their systems. Full cost accounting has been dropped (i.e. don't have to pay the whole cost of a wind tunnel to use it.) Space Act agreements require up front payments. Trying to make the process more customer friendly and useful.

Jeff Greason of XCOR

2:50 pm Jeff Greason (XCOR Aerospace) - Jeff Greason reviewed the status of the XCOR projects. (To show how he sees the future, he briefly put on a pair of sunglasses.

  • 25 employees now
  • 2000 - $100k revenue
  • 2001 - EZ Rocket, $300k revenue
  • $1.1M business in 2005
  • Expect $3.5M revenue in 2006
  • Propulsion systems and components: rocket engines, composite LOX tanks, pumps, valves, etc.
  • Complete rocket vehicles:
    • X-Racer
    • sub-orbital vehicle - need private operator
  • Suborbital passenger flights - use a Value Added Reseller (VAR) model
  • LOX tanks
    • Standard epoxy-fiber suffers from micro-cracking in the epoxy.
    • Jeff was familiar with fluropolymers (related to Teflon) from time at Intel and suggested trying it for tanks.
    • Doesn't burn and doesn't suffer from micro-cracking.
    • Patent pending.
    • NASA materials R&D is being cut way back so XCOR's project will probably also be cut.
    • Lots of interest for both aerospace and other apps.
    • Need to go as far as capped tanks with internal funding
  • Pumps - piston pump project. Will use a three cylinder pump for the X-Racer engines.
  • LOX/Methane propulsion development started long before NASA talked about using it for the CEV. When NASA included it in the Exploration architecture, they applied for the contract. Met most of the long term requirements already with a working thruster but still lost the contract to a company with only paper designs. However, methane propulsion was dropped from the architecture but it might be brought back.
  • EZ-Rocket - For the XP Cup it was brought out of retirement and they got cost/flight down from $3000 to $900 and turnaround from 24 hour to 3 hour
  • X-Racer - first flights this year.
    • Pump-fed LOX/Kerosene. 1500lbf
    • 10 minute turnaround
    • 16-20 sortie/day.
    • ~1.5 km/s delta-V
    • There will be 10 independent owner/operators
    • Need to work out warranty, insurance, support, etc issues.
    • Will be a big deal as far as building up the industry infrastructure
  • Xerus suborbital vehicle
    • Despite all the other projects, they still have 2-3 people working full time
    • Have half of funding now to build the Xerus.
    • Progressing but can't say more
  • Several job openings.

4:10 pm George Nield (AST/FAA) - George reviewed progress in commercial space launch in the past year since the last SAS meeting: e.g. XP Cup, Rocket racing League formation, SS1 installed in Smithsonian, SpaceShipTwo development underway, Centennial Challenge suborbital competitions, NASA's commercial ISS resupply program, Space Adventures Explorer suborbital projects in UAE and Singapore, NM spaceport, Falcon 1 launch attempt, etc.

At AST there have been several developments as well. They worked, for example, on streamlining of environmental impact reviews. Provide standard template documents for horizontal and vertical launch vehicles. Ultimate goal is to obtain a Categorical Exclusion for launch vehicles, which would release launch vehicle developers from the need to do environmental reviews. Need more flight data to obtain that.

Human spaceflight rulemaking underway. Currently reviewing public comments made on the proposed rules.

Experimental permit for RLV available. Used to fly vehicle for R&D, showing compliance for license, and crew training. Permits valid for one year. No "for profit" or paid passenger services.

He expects several experimental permits this year, an RLV license, and a new launch site operator license. Also, he thinks there will be frequent, routine suborbital passenger flights within 2-3 years.

4:45 pm Dave Masten (Masten Space Systems) - Dave gave an update of progress at MSS since last year.

  • Igniter development and tests went well last year
  • They then moved to start full engine development.
  • Showed videos of the tests, including a 45 second firing.
  • Fully regenative cooled chamber.
  • LOX/Isopropyl Alcohol
  • XA-01 vehicle photo.
  • Hold down tests in couple of weeks.
  • Tether tests probably by June.
  • Cansats and small payloads.
  • 350gram CanSat - $99
  • Expect to fly at XP Cup

4:55 pm Ian Kluft (Stratofox Aerospace Tracking Team) - This team tracks down high altitude rockets flown by amateur teams and small companies. Experienced in particular with the Black Rocket Desert but have also done, and will do, searches in other areas.

Launch recoveries include:

  • CSXT 100km flight in 2004
  • Two AeroPAC To100K flights by Aero-PAC (Association of Expt. Rocketry of the Pacific) that attempted to reach 100K feet. Both had second stage problems. More attempts planned for this summer.
  • Paragon Dragoon IIB - shovel recovery
    • Installed an amateur radio repeater at Black Rock.
  • UP Aerospace launch at the NM spaceport this summer.

[Update: Here are the slides from Ian's presentation.]

5:25 pm Barbara Thompson (GSFC, Space Weather - Awareness for Commercial Operators) - Barbara reviewed space weather, which deals with the solar wind, flares, solar radiation, aurora, etc. Relevant to the commercial space transport industry with regard to such issues as radiation exposure for suborbital and orbital space tourists.

Jerry Pournelle

8:10 pm Jerry Pournelle - Jerry lays out his suggestions for space development. "The quickest way to space" is for Congress to pay $10B to the first company to establish a lunar colony with at least 31 people and "keep them there alive and well for 3 years and 1 day". No income tax would be paid on the prize. He proposes $5B for a "space station continuously occupied by 12 Americans for 3 years and one day".

Return to the X program model. A successful X program should last about 4 years, no new technologies, three vehicles (one to crash, one to test, and one to the Smithsonian), and aim to "push the envelope".

Jerry recounted his involvement in the effort to start the SSX single stage to orbit vehicle. The DC-X became the prototype for the SSX. This would have evolved into the DC-Y, which would have gone to orbit or close to it.

9:00 pm Timothy Bendel (Frontier Astronautics) - Timothy reports on what the company has been up to during the past year. One project came out of last year's meeting: they got a contract to develop the attitude control system for the Masten Space XA-01.

They are also working on the Viper engine - pressure fed LOX/Kerosene, 7500 lbf thrust. Can be cluster to reach 30k lbf thrust. Cheap, replaceable ablative liner. Lack of testing facilities stalled development for about 6 months. Moved to Wyoming to avoid problems in Colorado and moved in a former Atlas missile silo!

Lots of great pictures of the silo facility. Lots of possibilities for testing both vertical and horizontal engines and vehicles using facilities on the grounds as well. Will offer to lease the facility to private space companies. Can obtain site waiver for 60 second flights. Intend to apply for suborbital test license. Talking to the state about support for a private spaceport.

Considering hydrogen peroxide production if there is sufficient interest.

9:30 pm Reda Anderson - first customer for the Rocketplane suborbital flight. Considers herself an adventurer, not a tourist. First found out about space flights when someone told her about the SS1 flights, which she went to watch. Met Chuck Lauer at the Space Frontier Foundation meeting on the Queen Mary in 2004. Made a contract with him right there. Has been all over the world. Took a submersible to see the Titanic.

Wants safety but knows the risks. Wants lots of information about the system and what the experience will be like. Will try out simulators, training programs, etc. Wants catering to family and friends who will share the experience with her.

She will take a flower with her and release it in zero-g. Then whenever she sees a similar flower she will re-live the experience.

9:50 pm Panel discussion: Common Economic Fallacies - Sam Dinkin, Kevin Greene, Joan Horvath, Joe Pistritto, and Rand Simberg - A discussion of fallacies such as

  • Tourism doesn't generate wealth
  • Throwing good money after bad trying to save it from going bad. (Sunk-cost fallcy)
  • Multiplier effect (a space project will create "new" jobs)
  • Money is spent on earth, not in space (Broken windows fallacy)
  • Spinoff benefits
  • Everyone loves space and will pay money for it.

Rand gives a brief economics tutorial explaining that services have just as much value as goods.

Joan notes the invisibility of the alt.space efforts. Must appeal to the public in some way, e.g. as underdogs vs. the big guys.

General discussion of markets, NASA, etc.


April 20, 2006 - Presentation Notes

Henry Spencer
Henry Spencer

2:00 pm: Henry Spencer... As is the tradition at the Space Access meetings, Henry gives an introductory overview of launch vehicles, staging, orbits, operations, etc. Some miscellaneous comments:

  • The essential benefit of the RLV is reliablity. Every ELV is flying for the first time. Unreliablity drives up the cost of spacecraft and operations.
  • Development cost of RLVs is higher but pay off in the long run due to much higher reliability.
  • Over promotion of scramjets makes them into scamjets. Despite the claims, scramjets are not require in the effort to lower space access costs.
  • Most vehicles were built with government money and so without regard to operational costs.
  • Russian launchers weigh about twice that of a comparable US launcher. High cost of achieving low lift-off weight is not worthwhile. A result of cost-plus contract mentality.

4:00 pm: Larry Niven ... Substituting for George Herbert, Larry spoke about defenses against large meterorite impacts. He and Jerry Pournelle wrote Lucifer's Hammer in the 1970s about such a disaster. Comments:

  • NASA stole his one liner about how "the dinosaurs didn't have a space program."
  • Large asteroid will pass earth in 2029. One in 50k chance it will hit earth.
  • Review of various proposals for how to move or divert an asteroid.
  • Tough to keep people worried about something over a long period.
  • The ships in movies like Deep Impact or Armageddon were far "too good" compared to what is actually available.

4:50 pm: Andrew Turner (Space Systems/Loral)... Loral is proposing the Aquarius low cost unmanned vehicle for bulk cargo delivery to the ISS. Features of the Aquarius system include:

  • Philosophy is to use a cheap vehicle with low reliability (~0.80)
  • Simple, low-margin design
  • Use to restock a depot with fuel, water, food, etc. Not manned.
  • Flight termination reliability, on the other hand, must be very high (0.999)
  • No stand-down after a failure - try to fix the problem but just accept failures.
  • Water launch - minimum cost, avoids risk to launch infrastructure
  • Dolphin in 1984 used a water launch
  • Baseline single stage to orbit vehicle with H2/LOX
  • Jacket around vehicle while in the water. Falls away during launch
  • SSTO is 20% lower operating cost than TSTO and development cost is less than 30% of TSTO
  • With high launch rates (~100 per year) then relative cost comparison gets even better
  • Ready by 2010 if COTS funded
  • Need a space tug to bring supplies to ISS
  • Space tug will be qualified for ISS rendezvous
  • AF contract for study + Cal State grant
  • A slick video from 2002
  • $1-$2M per launch
  • 1 ton payload
  • Taken to launch area via towed barge
  • Railroad train transport from plant to dock
  • Project Hydra - a Navy project
  • Partnered with Microcosm
  • The design includes a composite tank and some other heritage items from Scorpius program

[Update April.28.06: A brief description of the Aquarius system: Aquarius Low-Cost Consumables Launcher - Space Grant Database]

Sam Dinkin and Chuck Lauer
Chuck Lauer of Rocketplane holds a check presented to him
by Sam Dinkin, founder of Space Shot.

5:40 pm: Sam Dinkin (Space-Shot.com)... Sam reviewed the Space Shot game and the motivation behind it. He answered lots of questions about the weather prediction aspects of the game.

Sam also presented a check to Chuck Lauer of Rocketplane. As part of their arrangement, Space-Shot would give them the second half of their launch fee two weeks after the public opening of the game.

8:00 pm: Leik Myrabo ... Leik discussed his laser and microwave propulsion projects. He discussed the nano-capsule they flew a few years ago to 72m with a 10kW pulsed CO2 laser. He showed a video from the Discover Channel plus some videos of simulations of their lightcraft vehicles. He went through the details of how the laser pulsed detonation engine cycle works. He described the basic design of a BEP (Beamed Energy Propulsion) microsat launcher system.

9:15 pm: Lee Valentine... Lee, who is a director of the Space Studies Institute, gave a brief background and status report on SSI, which was founded by Gerard O'Neill. Current priority project is a completely closed life support system based on biological processes. Involves a collaboration with a group at Cornell. Need to raise about $3M to fund a three year demonstration project.

9:30 pm: Andrew Tubbiolo (Pueblo Instruments) ... Builds imaging and sensor systems for spacecraft and astronomical projects. Can provide imaging systems for use in propulsion, vehicle development, e.g. fast imaging of rocket tests. Looking for business with the alt.space industry.

9:40 pm: Alex Bruccoleri ... Alex talked about two different topics:

  • Microwave Thermal Rocketry - work in a short term project at CalTech with Kevin Parkin.
    • Use ground based array of microwave attenas to create a beam to heat hydrogen on a vehicle via a heat exchanger.
    • Project at CalTech studied the basics of the heat exchanger
    • Successfully heated Mullite Rods over a 2inch length
    • A 1MW Gyrotron could fly a model rocket. Such a project would involve ~$1oM
    • $1B to develop an orbital system. Once basic system working, can build incrementally to put bigger payloads into orbit

  • Setting up a static test stand at a "Liberal Arts Academic Institution" (Dartmouth) - Alex told the tale of setting up a rocket test stand as a summer project that lasted far beyond summer. After overcoming ten months worth of bureaucratic resistance, he succeeded in installing a stand that could be used for engines up to 4000 lb thrust.


The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG


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